Pat Brown, a biochemist at Stanford University, is looking for $20 million in foundation money to publish scientific papers on the web for free., instead of in print journals.
For those who aren’t familiar with the issue, most academic journals are owned by big media conglomerates, take articles and editorial labor for free, and charge tons of money for the result. This structure makes converts public information into a private resource, retards access to scientific information, and impoverishes university libraries. It’s a classic case of plundering the commons by creating artifical scarcity.
Creating the database and the peer review process is the easy part of this project. The hard part is changing human behavior when the stakes are so high.
It’s really difficult to disintermediate existing relationships. The prestige of being in certain journals has a direct impact on the careers of the authors. There is no advantage to an author to being in some big database.
Nothing will change without collective action on the part of academics.
It would help if the heavy-hitters in specific fields would agree to publish only in journals that allowed them to contribute their information to a public database, or if academics bargained collectively for a contracts that permitted online republication, or if academic departments based career evaluations on citations and not publications.
Probably, all this (and more) must happen. Until it does, the shame lies with academics and not with journal publishers who exploit them. [via Slashdot]